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National Report Examines Where Laws Are Applied in Unfair, Unbalanced Manners

AUSTIN, TEXAS – The Rio Grande Valley and East Texas are named “Judicial Hellholes” in a just released annual report published by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). “Judicial Hellholes” are jurisdictions across the country where the laws are applied in an unfair or unbalanced manner.

“While Texas has long been recognized as a national leader in reining in frivolous lawsuits and championing smart reform, the findings in this latest ATRA report raise concerns for consumers, small business owners and all Texans who care about a civil justice system based on common sense and fairness,” said Jennifer Harris, a spokesperson for Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA).

In East Texas, ATRA has for a number of years noted the high number of patent lawsuits filed in federal court. This year, the Judicial Hellhole report highlighted an egregious case involving a record-setting $663 million and questionable judgment against a maker of highway guardrails.

“The Eastern District of Texas is one of the most popular venues for questionable lawsuits because the court moves cases to trial quickly and its local juries are perceived to be plaintiff-friendly,” said Diane Davis, executive director of East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (ETALA). “Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse will continue to call out these abuses when we see them and aggressively advocate for much needed reform.”

The Rio Grande Valley is singled out for excessive lawsuits – more than 10,000 filed by a small number of firms – surrounding historic hailstorms in 2012 and 2013. The cases have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fees for lawyers while insurance policyholders face skyrocketing premiums and, in some cases, an inability to obtain coverage. TALA and the Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (RGV CALA) first exposed the troubling trend in a 2014 study of hailstorm lawsuits and subsequently advocated in favor of further reform by the Texas Legislature.

“It’s never a positive for a community to be a hot-bed of litigation,” said Julian Alvarez of the RGV CALA. “We continue to work hard to raise these civil justice concerns, as we did with our recent hailstorm study, and we’re hopeful our state leaders will embrace further reforms.”

Davis added, “In both the highway guardrail case in East Texas and with excessive hailstorm litigation in South Texas, when an area is viewed as being overly litigious or perceptions of unfairness persist, it invites further abuse of our civil justice system.”

“Our Texas Legislature and elected officials have made great strides to enact lawsuit reforms that protect consumers and ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed, but this latest Judicial Hellholes report suggests there is still much work to be done,” added Alvarez.


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